Kolot Chayeinu/Voices Of Our Lives
Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives is a Jewish congregation in Brooklyn, where doubt can be an act of faith and all hands are needed to build our community. We are creative, serious seekers who pray joyfully, wrestle with tradition, pursue justice, and refuse to be satisfied with the world as it is. We share a commitment to ending structural racism and becoming an antiracist congregation. And, as individuals of varying sexual orientations, gender identities, races, family arrangements, and Jewish identities and backgrounds, we search for meaningful and just expressions of our Judaism in today's uncertain world.*
*New language in red adopted provisionally on October 22 by the Board of Directors, awaiting vote at annual congregational meeting in May 2018.
Who We Are
Kolot Chayeinu is a Jewish congregation and we recognize our connection to Jews everywhere. As such, we are committed to working to support and improve the Jewish world and Judaism, engaging in dialogue and debate about issues and ideas that have an impact on Jews and Judaism and about visions for the Jewish future.
Diversity is a hallmark of the Kolot Chayeinu community. We continue and grow as we began, with profound respect for individuality, believing in and striving for broad inclusivity, sharing meals, conversation, and camaraderie. Our experience has taught us that a wide range of Jewish background, practice, and understanding is necessary to a vibrant community, as is the active presence of non-Jewish members, loved ones, and friends. We are proud to be a community comprising individuals of varying Jewish traditions, sexual orientations, races, and family arrangements.
Our community's greatest strength and most precious resource are its members. We honor the range and variety of the talents and experiences our members bring to the community, and appreciate and rely on the support they give to the congregation through participation and financial contributions.
The work of the community is the community's work. This congregation is committed to participatory governance. The elected board, active committees, working groups, the rabbi, and staff are responsible for conducting the business and enabling the work of the congregation. We support frequent and open means of communication. We highly value the skilled professionals, led by our Rabbi, who provide us with leadership, learning, support, and wisdom of many kinds. Our commitment is to personnel policies and practices that reflect Jewish values of fairness, respect, and the promotion of dignity in the workplace.
We are an American Jewish congregation and we value America's freedoms that have benefited Jews and Judaism, while upholding Jewish values that spur us to protest American policies and actions we see as wrong. Kolot Chayeinu is a congregation in Brooklyn, New York, and it is committed to act for the welfare of this great borough.
We believe that Jews have an obligation to grapple with the many issues and emotions connected to our historic attachment to Israel and the current political situation in Israel and Palestine. While we join Jews everywhere in facing Jerusalem while we pray, we have no consensus on political solutions nor their philosophical underpinnings.
What We Believe and What We Do
Kolot Chayeinu is a religious and spiritual community. Prayer, in its in many forms, is central to our life as a community. We pray using language that speaks of God's existence, while recognizing that each of us as individuals understands God differently or not at all.
We believe in free expression of doubt and regular questioning. Like Jacob, we wrestle with the divine. We find joy and comfort in Jewish celebration and prayer and we base our Jewish practice on our understanding of Jewish tradition and modern innovation, and as we seek to create new forms and rituals involving story, drama, dance, literature, and music. Music is a cornerstone of our worship, which encompasses a wide musical variety. Our prayer is one aspect of the congregation's expression and development, and we seek to renew it regularly through learning and experimentation.
Understanding Judaism to be practiced in the shul, school, and home, we seek to strengthen and support home practice of Judaism among our members, as well as involvement in communal prayer and learning. A Jewish community today should provide a place for discussion, learning, argument, prayer, silence, comfort, and hope in response to a complex and changing world. We inherit a Jewish tradition that responds to all of life in a deeply serious fashion, and we believe in engaging it meaningfully.
Torah - our ongoing story - and Jewish learning in general, are central to our life as a community. Our learning answers questions and enables questioning, and instills an abiding sense of pleasure in Jewish thought and practice. We strive to develop the basic knowledge and skills needed for ongoing religious practice, cultural engagement, and ethical action.
Ideally, learners of all ages and backgrounds will understand what Judaism means for them, identify strongly as Jews, and have the cultural fluency needed for active engagement in Jewish life and community. As a Jewish community, we believe strongly in teaching and passing on our tradition to the next generation. Children learn to be Jews from parents, school and community, and we are dedicated to enabling learning from all three. Some prayer, learning, and celebration should be geared primarily to children, some primarily to adults, and some to cross-generational gatherings. We strive to gather as a whole community, and also nurture the development of affinity groups within the larger congregation.
ACTION FOR JUSTICE
We strive to create a covenantal community. Judaism teaches that each person is created in God's image, and we are thus deeply respectful of one another even in strong disagreement. The debate of ideas is part of the holy enterprise that is Jewish tradition and life, and we are committed to continuing the argument and the respect. Our commitment to the Jewish prophetic tradition is profound. This tradition urges us to refuse to be satisfied and obligates us to improve the world in which we find ourselves. We support and act in common cause with those who pursue justice, peace, and fairness here and around the world. Jewish codes of ethical conduct are our guide, and we seek to conduct ourselves accordingly, via tzedakah (giving for justice), tikkun olam (active repair of the world), and gemilut hasadim (acts of loving-kindness).
Our members believe in living our ethical values in our own community. Thus, for example, our worship services, including those for the High Holy Days, are open to everyone and our dues structure is flexible and does not bar anyone who cannot pay. Similarly, if and when we have a space of our own, we pledge to consider issues of access to that space and its impact on the environment and its neighborhood.
Judaism today must acknowledge the uncertainty of the world and people's fears about it and must find ways to respond, to engage, to protest, to comfort, and to offer hope. Our Jewish expressions will be most meaningful if they are informed by Jewish learning and tradition and by current innovations and experiments. We believe that our prayer, learning, and acts of justice must reflect our lives, our minds, and our hearts and enrich and illuminate all three. An engaged Jewish life can provide deep meaning and strong community, and we strive to achieve both. We believe that it is a Jewish value to look to the future with hope.